The Hague

Musical graffiti (Or: Spotted by the Spui)

A few weeks back I snapped some photos of musical graffiti by the Spui here in The Hague. Someone was definitely feeling creative:

This area is just outside the city hall. In the background (on the other side of the construction walls) you have what used to be the Dr. Anton Philipszaal (Dutch Wikipedia link) which was torn down in late 2015. The building housed both concert and theatre events.

A larger cultural building is currently being constructed in this spot and will hopefully be finished in 2021. Earlier it was announced that the name would be “Amare”, which is Italian for “to love” or “by the sea”. Even if I never step foot inside, I’ll still be glad to get the area in front of it back – the construction site takes up a huge chunk of the plaza (see also the photo I posted back in 2012 of the Spuiplein).

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Time to be patient (Or: All coronavirus measures extended)

The Dutch prime minister announced today in an evening press conference that all measures relating to stopping the coronavirus would be extended from 6 April to 28 April (at least). That includes working from home where possible, restaurants only allowed to be open for take out, the social distancing measures, and more. In addition, schools would be closed until the end of May vacation (3 May).

The prime minister was also quite clear that this could be extended further, and also said that measures would only be removed gradually once the country was ready for it. Considering we had our highest number of deaths today that is probably for the best. There were 175 deaths, although some of them were from previous days but only registered today.

For now there is no complete lockdown. Whether or not we get one is based on whether people follow the measures and make wise decisions. Only time will tell.

Information board in English near The Hague Centraal. The same information was also displayed in Arabic, which I find interesting.

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Closed, closed, closed (Or: Signs of corona in The Hague)

These pictures are from 20-21 March, after the first week of working from home. The first is from Lebkov, a local café:

Unfortunately I think they will need to update their sign… At the moment schools and restaurants are closed until 6 April 2020, however there will be a press conference tomorrow. The expectation is that both measures will be extended until the end of April or the beginning of May. The National Institute for Public Health and Environment is currently conducting research on 100 families with school-age children to see how how the disease develops and how it affects family members of a COVID-19 patient. However that research only began about a week ago and they expect it to last 6 weeks before results are official. And until that time the government will likely keep schools closed. And there’s a good chance restaurants will also be kept closed. Right now they can only be open for take away.

Unimportant side note: The Netherlands has a very cool term – “horeca” which is shorthand for hotels, restaurants and cafés.

A closed sign for TK Maxx. ‘We’re sorry, but unforunately our school is currently closed for business. We hope to be back soon. For current information, visit www.tkmaxx.nl.’

Unimportant side note: In case you’re wondering, TK Maxx is the same company as TJ Maxx in the United States.

Not quite a closed sign, but some information about how to order at the local Smoothie Company.

Unimportant side note: I just noticed that Google Maps now provides adjusted store hours in red (or it says ‘Temporarily closed’ in red), so it’s a bit easier to see if hours have been adjusted due to corona or not. If the font color is still in black, they probably haven’t been updated. See more at 9to5google.com and also the Google support page.

Stay safe, everyone.

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Wandering through The Hague (Or: Noticing the little things)

Here are more photos from the last time I went outside – you can see how deserted the Binnenhof is:

Although there was a small press conference going on further ahead, it wasn’t in this part of the area. The only people I saw outside of that were a few cyclists traveling through.

One of the other places that I visited was the Haagse Bluf, where I took a few pictures:

And a picture of a metal sculpture that looked odd enough that I just knew I had to photograph it:

Otherwise people seemed to be following the rules of staying home if possible, and not flocking to the beaches or parks like they did last week. Perhaps they realized doing so would probably mean yet more rules imposed next week…

Check out the webcam of the Scheveningen boulevard, which is as good as empty. Usually I only see one or two people walking past, with the occasional car.

Good news of the day: the Dutch company Philips delivered 100 respirators to the Dutch government yesterday (article in Dutch) to increase the overall amount of ICU beds in the country. One thing I hadn’t realized before this crisis was how few ICU beds The Netherlands had. Normally there are about 1150 beds in the entire country, with half designated for corona patients and half for non-corona patients. The minister of Health, Welfare and Sport expects there to be just over 1,000 beds on 1 April for corona patients – but keep in mind we are close to that capacity already. Currently the goal is to increase the number to 1,500.

Whether or not Philips could deliver anything on The Netherlands was in doubt – while they are a Dutch company, the factory is in the United States. Recently president Trump was considering invoking the Defense Production Act from 1950, which would jeopardize Phillips exporting to the Netherlands (or any country for that matter). Part of the issue is that a lot of the components for the ventilators are sourced globally, so it is not as if everything could be created in the U.S. alone. But it hasn’t come to that yet.

In similar news, I read this morning that Germany has 28,000 beds and 25,000 respirators… that is a crazy difference compared to the Netherlands, and not just because of the differences in populations (17 million versus 82 million). That explains why two Dutch ICU patients were moved to Münster, Germany today (article in Dutch). Germany has also been taking patients from Italy and France.

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Signs of stillness (Or: Wandering through The Hague)

I took the day off today. It almost – almost – felt pointless, but not quite. I have a bad habit of logging in early (07:30) due to not having a commute and then still working past 17:00. So the workdays feel a bit long right now. And having the day off means I can get out of the house for a bit longer. I’m getting “used” to staying inside some days as I have not been outside since Tuesday morning for a quick trip to the grocery store. But that doesn’t make it any easier.

Therefore, I walked and walked and walked today. Past the statue of Haagse Harry, past the Grote Kerk (Great Church / Sint-Jacobskerk), through the Palace Gardens, and through the Binnenhof. It was quiet and everyone was mindful of the social distancing rules. I even got to see a mini interview at the Binnenhof, although I have no idea who exactly they were interviewing. My politics knowledge is less than ideal.

Funny story about the Palace Gardens: while walking I noticed a small section with about 10 benches that would have added a few extra steps. I had no intention of stopping, I was just mindlessly wandering. I took a few steps in that direction and then noticed one of the benches was occupied. I did a quick calculation of the path size and deemed it a bit too narrow for me to comfortably walk past. I also wanted to be nice to the other person. So I changed my mind and did not go that way.

And then a few seconds later the person began coughing like crazy – a painful cough that was most likely nothing serious. But I’ll admit I was glad for my choice not to go that way! And I only felt a tiny bit guilty about it…

Mannequin wearing a face mask
Entrance to Florencia ice cream (http://www.florenciaijs.nl/home)

And just to show how Dutch this country is….

‘COVID-19 is coming out of my nose!’ Hmmm. Good artwork though.

Then I made my way to the local Albert Heijn for groceries. In most Albert Heijns you are now required to shop using a full-sized shopping cart. While this is the most ordinary thing in the world in America, not many people use them in The Netherlands as the stores are smaller and people generally shop more often than once a week. Therefore I was not looking forward to this new rule.

When I walked in there was a manager and a worker cleaning each of the shopping baskets and then handing it to each customer. (In some stores where a full shopping cart doesn’t make sense, this is the next best option.) So no shopping cart for me, yay.

Otherwise things were fairly quiet, with only a few occasions where I had to plan how I would best get by someone (or patiently wait). The self scan area looked more like a hospital word, with curtains hanging floor to ceiling between each self-scan machine.

These are strange times. Keep safe, everyone.

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Empty streets of The Hague (Or: Plenty of places to park your bike)

Recently Marco took a photo of the bike parking outside of Hema:

This was at the start of what is normally evening rush hour, as everyone heads home from work. Normally this area would be packed with bikes, crammed so tightly together that it would then be impossible to remove your bike once you returned from your shopping trip.

The area is normally so full that it there are ‘bike coaches’ which help you park your bike. Or bike coaches that stand around all day talking with each other… one of those two is true. Although one time I did see one of the coaches help an older lady diagnose a problem with her bike, so that was nice to see.

But still: the strange times continue, with no end in the near future.

The government launched a campaign today called ‘alleen samen’ which can be translated as either ‘only together’ or ‘alone together’. Basically reminding us that we are together in this – even when we must undertake so many actions alone (article in Dutch).

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Stuck inside? (Or: Libraries are still the answer)

Similar to the photo I posted yesterday, one of the rotating advertisements on the digital advertisement boards is for onlinebibliotheek.nl.

The advertisement says “If you can’t go outside, you can still bring the world inside, right? … Visit (online) your bookstore or go to onlinebibliotheek.nl”.

Luckily the library here in The Hague says no fines until 13 April due to all of the branches being closed They ask that you hold onto the items you have checked out for now. Like a typical book junkie, I only wish I had realized in advance that all of the library branches would be closed so that I could check out more books in the meantime. I suspect the libraries won’t reopen on 6 April, especially considering the new rules that the Netherlands is taking to enforce social distancing.

Right now I am reading The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin, in Dutch. If I am honest with myself, I have plenty to read after that, books that I already own (including Magic Journey: My Fantastical Walt Disney Imagineering Career by Kevin Rafferty). But there is just something about getting a library book and cracking open the binding for the first time…

Sometimes you get lucky and someone who had the book before leaves a checkout receipt inside or a bookmark or something like that. The last book I checked out from the library had a pressed flower inside that was presumably used as a bookmark. With little purple flowers.

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Art in the city centre (Or: Heaven holds a sense of wonder)

The Hague is home to many pieces of art, especially in the city centre. One of those is is called Heaven holds a sense of wonder by the artist Femke van Wijk.

It is a bronze sculpture created in 2011. You can find it on the Kalvermarkt – to the right is the Kalvermarkt-Stadhuis tram stop and in the background is the Primark retail store. In the distance is the Grote Marktstraat, a large shopping area.

A close up of the crown:

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Empty cities (Or: De Passage in The Hague)

Four working days into the new reality: a look at De Passage (“The Passage“), the oldest shopping centre in The Netherlands.

This was taken yesterday morning around 10:00. Quite empty, considering shops would normally start opening around then. In the far distance, not quite viewable, is the entrance to Bijenkorf. Yesterday they announced that they would be closing all stores in The Netherlands for the foreseeable future (article – scroll for English). The day before that, Ikea closed all of their physical stores. They did this out of necessity, since so many customers were coming to the stores due to everything else being closed (article in Dutch).

The prime minister announced during an evening press conference that visitors would no longer be welcome at nursing homes (article in Dutch). Exceptions would be made for residents who are expected to pass away soon. There are also warnings from the Dutch healthcare system expects at least 500 to 1,000 patients in the ICU next week. As of today there are 210 in the ICU. Therefore they have begun moving some of those patients to other hospitals, freeing up beds in the harder hit parts of the country (article in Dutch).

A group of students have also begun providing unofficial translations of the Dutch public broadcast NOS, in an aptly named Facebook group NOS in English.

Stay safe, everyone.

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The beginnings of quarantine (Or: News from The Netherlands)

This evening the Dutch government tightened their rules regarding the COVID-19 crisis which will be in effect until (at least) 6 April. Schools will be required to close from tomorrow. Cafes, restaurants, coffee shops, sport schools, daycares, sex shops and more were closed from 18:00 this evening (basically the moment the press conference ended) until 6 April. Supermarkets will remain open.

The photo above is now out of date. I took it this afternoon to show that the Central Library was closed, while the other (smaller) branches were still partially open. This was acceptable since generally only the Central Library would have more than 100 persons inside at any given time. But thanks to the new measures introduced by the Dutch government this evening, all branches are closed until 6 April.

I think that is one of the stranger things about this situation – information and rules change by the day, if not faster.

Luckily persons in ‘vital’ professions like health care, police and firefighters would be able to take their children to a free daycare, much like the system that Belgium had sent up. Although I do think both caregivers have to be in ‘vital’ professions to take advantage of this ruling. This was all but required of course – the prime minister’s opposition to closing schools was that it would mean persons in vital professions would not be able to go into work.

I’ll be interested to see what tomorrow brings…

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